Weed and yoga have come to be the legalization era’s new hottest pairing. With the launch of various 420 yoga classes around cannabis legal states, the combination has inspired yogis to learn more about how these two physical and medicinal practices can enhance each other.
“The practice of yoga — from the way we move our bodies to the way in which we breathe — really provides the key tools to help us develop a relationship with the plant medicine,” says Rachael Carlevale, founder of Ganjasana, a course that teaches yoga practitioners how to develop their relationship with the cannabis plant. She says it’s essential to learn how to use cannabis with respect. Carlevale, herself, survived cancer — a phase of her life during which cannabis offered tremendous support.
While the pairing of weed and yoga might be trendy today, it has roots in ancient India. In fact “ganja,” as cannabis is called in India (derived from the Sanskrit word “gangika”), was a part of the development of yoga, itself.
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The Hindu god Shiva is considered the “father of yoga,” as well as the lord of mind-altering substances. In Hindu mythology, he has a deep association with cannabis in the form of ganja flowers, charas, a kind of hashish, and bhang, a smoothie-like concoction made with cannabis leaves, ghee, and herbs. Shiva was said to often leave the house and go wandering for days, leaving his wife, the goddess Parvati, to worry about him. To lure him home, Parvati would make him bhang, so that he would return, drink it, and spend time with his family. On the festival Shivaratri, it’s very common for Shiva devotees consume cannabis for the holy occasion.
Today, you still see Hindu sadhus, or holy men, meditating and smoking ganja, says Carlevale. She came up with the term “ganjasana” to combine “ganja” and “asana,” the Sanskrit word for yoga postures. She describes the system as a “conscious pairing of regenerative cannabis plant medicine with the practices of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.”
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Carlevale calls her Colorado-based cannabis yoga classes “ceremonies” and asks that yogis show up sober. She provides the cannabis, including a heavy indica called “The White” and a hybrid called “Holy Headband.” She starts the ceremony with breathwork and then everyone consumes the cannabis before they start the physical asanas.
Ganjasana yoga school also has a greenhouse, so people can see the plants at every phase during their growth cycle. “It’s so important to understand how the plant grows before you lead a class where you are responsible for people who are under the influence of this powerful, sacred plant,” says Carlevale.
In addition to ceremonies, she also offers teacher training, online classes, retreats, and private events like women’s circles, couples alignment, and sex ed. As legalization sweeps the nation, Carlevale says more and more people are interested in learning how to use cannabis mindfully.